Gartner has highlighted the top strategic technology trends that will impact most organisations in 2018.
Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.
"IT leaders must factor these technology trends into their innovation strategies or risk losing ground to those that do," says David Cearley, vice president and Gartner fellow.
Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018 are:
Creating systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously will be a major battleground for technology vendors through to at least 2020, predicts Gartner.
The ability to use AI to enhance decision making, reinvent business models and ecosystems, and remake the customer experience will drive the payoff for digital initiatives through 2025.
"AI techniques are evolving rapidly and organisations will need to invest significantly in skills, processes and tools to successfully exploit these techniques and build AI-enhanced systems," adds Cearley.
"Investment areas can include data preparation, integration, algorithm and training methodology selection, and model creation. Multiple constituencies including data scientists, developers and business process owners will need to work together."
Gartner forecasts that over the next few years, virtually every app, application and service will incorporate some level of AI.
Some of these apps will be obvious intelligent apps that could not exist without AI and machine learning while others will be unobtrusive users of AI that provide intelligence behind the scenes.
"Explore intelligent apps as a way of augmenting human activity and not simply as a way of replacing people," comments Cearley.
"Augmented analytics is a particularly strategic growing area which uses machine learning to automate data preparation, insight discovery and insight sharing for a broad range of business users, operational workers and citizen data scientists."
Gartner defines ‘intelligent things’ as physical things that go beyond the execution of rigid programming models to exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviors and interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people.
"Currently, the use of autonomous vehicles in controlled settings (for example, in farming and mining) is a rapidly growing area of intelligent things. We are likely to see examples of autonomous vehicles on limited, well-defined and controlled roadways by 2022, but general use of autonomous cars will likely require a person in the driver's seat in case the technology should unexpectedly fail," continues Cearley.
"For at least the next five years, we expect that semiautonomous scenarios requiring a driver will dominate."
A digital twin refers to the digital representation of a real-world entity or system.
Gartner finds digital twins in the context of IoT projects are particularly promising over the next three to five years and is leading the interest in digital twins today.
These digital twins are linked to their real-world counterparts and are used to understand the state of the thing or system, respond to changes, improve operations and add value.
"Over time, digital representations of virtually every aspect of our world will be connected dynamically with their real-world counterpart and with one another and infused with AI-based capabilities to enable advanced simulation, operation and analysis," says Cearley.
"City planners, digital marketers, healthcare professionals and industrial planners will all benefit from this long-term shift to the integrated digital twin world."
Edge computing describes a computing topology in which information processing, and content collection and delivery, are placed closer to the sources of this information.
"When used as complementary concepts, cloud can be the style of computing used to create a service-oriented model and a centralised control and coordination structure with edge being used as a delivery style allowing for disconnected or distributed process execution of aspects of the cloud service," explains Cearley.
Enterprises should begin using edge design patterns in their infrastructure architectures - particularly for those with significant IoT elements, explains Gartner.
"Conversational platforms have reached a tipping point in terms of understanding language and basic user intent, but they still fall short," notes Cearley.
"The challenge that conversational platforms face is that users must communicate in a very structured way, and this is often a frustrating experience.”
Over the next few years, conversational interfaces will become a primary design goal for user interaction and be delivered in dedicated hardware, core OS features, platforms and applications.
Virtual, augmented and mixed reality are changing the way that people perceive and interact with the digital world.
The virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) market is currently adolescent and fragmented, explains Gartner, although interest is high, resulting in many novelty VR applications that deliver little real business value outside of advanced entertainment.
To drive real tangible business benefits, enterprises must examine specific real-life scenarios where VR and AR can be applied to make employees more productive and enhance the design, training and visualisation processes.
According to Gartner, blockchain is evolving from a digital currency infrastructure into a platform for digital transformation.
Although it holds long-term promise and will undoubtedly create disruption, blockchain promise outstrips blockchain reality, and many of the associated technologies are immature for the next two to three years.
Central to digital business is the idea that the business is always sensing and ready to exploit new digital business moments, continues Gartner.
With the use of event brokers, IoT, cloud computing, blockchain, in-memory data management and AI, business events can be detected faster and analysed in greater detail.
But technology alone without cultural and leadership change does not deliver the full value of the event-driven model. Digital business drives the need for IT leaders, planners and architects to embrace event thinking.
To securely enable digital business initiatives in a world of advanced, targeted attacks, security and risk management leaders must adopt a continuous adaptive risk and trust assessment (CARTA) approach, says Gartner.
This will allow real-time, risk and trust-based decision making with adaptive responses.
As part of a CARTA approach, organisations must overcome the barriers between security teams and application teams, much as DevOps tools and processes overcome the divide between development and operations, suggests Gartner.
Information security architects must integrate security testing at multiple points into DevOps workflows in a collaborative way that is largely transparent to developers, and preserves the teamwork, agility and speed of DevOps and agile development environments.